CD review

CD REVIEW: Arild Andersen / Clive Bell / Mark Wastell – Tales of Hackney

Arild Andersen / Clive Bell / Mark Wastell – Tales of Hackney
(Confront CORE 05. CD review by Brian Marley)

Recorded at Hackney Road Studios, hence the title of the CD, Tales of Hackney follows swiftly on from an extremely well-received set of solos and duos by these musicians at London’s legendary Cafe Oto. Convened by Mark Wastell, who on this recording plays shruti box and percussion (mainly metals of various kinds, central to which is a tam-tam), this is a session of lighter-than-air musical gestures and gentle sonic surprises.

Double bassist Arild Andersen is, of course, well-known to jazz aficionados, having recorded with Jan Garbarek from 1967-73. Over the years he’s built up a substantial discography on ECM, both as a primary artist and in various groupings. This is an untypical recording for him in that it’s freely improvised, though track VI is based on his composition Mira – a very different version from the one played by Andersen with tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith and drummer Paolo Vinaccia on the intense live album In-House Science (ECM, 2018). Here its lullaby lilt is offset by cymbal or gong rolls and a wavering, extended shakuhachi line that seems at times yearning, at other times mournful. The woody sound of Andersen’s bass is captured superbly on this recording thanks to the efforts of recording engineer Shuta Shinoda.

The third member of the trio is Clive Bell, known principally for his mastery of the shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute. Check out his excellent 2005 album, called simply Shakuhachi, on the Arc label, and tracks VI, VII and IX on the album under review, to see how small, subtle gestures can add up to a substantial music. He’s also had a long musical relationship with Jah Wobble and can be heard to good effect on dub-influenced recordings by various of Wobble’s groups, such as Invaders of the Heart and Deep Space. He’s versatile, in other words. On Tales of Hackney he plays several other East Asian wind instruments: the khene (Thai mouth organ), pi saw (Thai flute), and the high-pitched shinobue (a Japanese transverse bamboo flute).

Tales of Hackney floats and shimmers. The tempo on most tracks is slow to non-existent and the music feels neither hurried nor contrived. Even track I, with its surprisingly spritely rhythm, and the bass ostinatos that underpin tracks IV and VI, feel leisurely, as if the time in which they operate is slower than the time we’re living through. Frankly, most music feels downright hectic when compared to this. But these tales contain no longueurs, just a steady stream of musical invention that rewards repeated listening.

Categories: CD review

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